Question: Why are abalone divers and pickers now required to wait until 8 a.m. to begin? Can divers still go spear fishing at the normal legal start time or take early morning photos, then switch over to abalone diving at 8 a.m.? – Anonymous
This regulation change originated from the concerns of wardens who were witnessing large numbers of fishermen coming each and every low tide and taking large numbers of abalone. In addition to all the legal-sized abalone being taken, people were removing numerous undersized abalone while trying to find legal ones. Because undersized abalone often do not survive being removed and returned, they are likely to die. Thus, the impact on the fishery when this happens is probably much greater than the estimated legal catch (over 200,000 abalone annually in recent years).
Some people were also using the dim light before dawn to hide illegal activities. Wardens believe the later start time will aid them in enforcing regulations by moving early morning abalone fishing activities to hours with better daylight. The effect of the new start time on total catch is uncertain because people could shift to later hours or the days with low tides after 8 a.m. Although there may be a reduction in overall take based on the 8 a.m. start time, the increased enforcement benefit is clearly going to assist with compliance of the regulations. Once the data from the change has been analyzed, the CDFW will be able to evaluate what the overall benefit to the abalone resource was.
Divers wanting to go out before 8 a.m. to spearfish or do underwater photography can do this as long as they don’t have the means of taking abalone or are searching for abalone before the official state time. If their activities appear to a warden to be taking or searching for abalone before 8 a.m., then they can be cited.